See Jane Spike
©2004 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2004 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: Daria, Jane, and the Fashion Club find themselves on opposing teams in a nasty session of volleyball—a first-season sequel, of sorts, to the opening scenes from every “Daria” show in which Daria screws up the game for Stacy and Tiffany.
Author's Notes: Hiergargo challenged me on PPMB to write a story that had Daria, Quinn, and Sandi competing against Jane, Stacy, and Tiffany. After some thought, the amusing volleyball game with Daria, Stacy, and Tiffany, came to mind—and the story was on its way. Various volleyball games in which I played and the Internet’s wealth of volleyball rules and regulations supplied the rest.
Acknowledgements: My thanks go out to Hiergargo for his excellent PPMB challenge.
Ms. Morris’s shrill whistle cut like a spear through the stale gymnasium air at the start of Monday morning’s P.E. class. Dozens of female students in gym clothes winced and mouthed “Ow!” including Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane, sitting on the gym floor behind a conveniently large stack of wrestling mats.
“All right, girls, let’s go!” Ms. Morris shouted. “Get in formation! Move it, move it, move it! I want everyone out on the gym floor, now!”
“I don’t know which is worse,” Daria whispered through gritted teeth. “That whistle or the rest of her.”
“On the one hand,” said Jane, sticking a little finger in her ear and wiggling it around, “an irritating noise that jars the nerves and disrupts coherent thought. On the other hand, the whistle is awful, too.”
Daria pushed her glasses further up on her nose. “With any luck, we can debate this issue a few minutes more before she finds out we’re AWOL.”
“Unless someone tells on us, like last ti—”
“There you are!” cried Ms. Morris, coming around the side of the stack of mats. “You were right, Sandi! They were malingering again!” Her voice rose to a drill-sergeant shout. “Get off your butts, shirkers, and get out there with the rest of them!”
Daria and Jane got up with glum looks and dusted themselves off before walking out to the formation. Because of a temporary teacher shortage, the sophomore phys-ed class of Lawndale High had been combined with that of the grade behind them. Daria now suffered the double indignity of being made to exercise, which she hated, while her younger sister Quinn enjoyed the show. That worked both ways, of course. The appearance-conscious Quinn often found herself sweaty and tired while Daria smirked at her in the background. The only opinions they shared in common was a loathing for their teacher, Ms. Morris, and for their yellow gym shorts and blue tees, Quinn because they weren’t fashionable and Daria because they reminded her she was still in high school.
After a set of rigorous calisthenics that left the class panting and weak, Ms. Morris blew her whistle again for attention. “We’re doing volleyball this period!” she shouted at the wavering formation, ignoring the groans of despair. “And I expect every single one of you will participate! Including you two!” She looked pointedly at Daria and Jane, who stood together at the rear of the formation. Daria looked back with a bland but resigned expression, while Jane grinned and waved. Ms. Morris began pacing in front of the formation. “I’ll divide you up into six teams, and you’ll play against each other in three courts that we’ll set up down the middle of this gym!”
“Ms. Morris!” called one of the girls. “The cheerleaders and pep club and—”
“—and everyone else are gone to the school-spirit workshop today, I know. We still have enough players for some gung-ho practice.” The teacher raised her clipboard and studied it. “I can get four teams of nine people each, and two small teams with the leftovers. Let’s find out if we have that championship potential that’s made Lawndale High School number one in county athletics! I want each team to do its best to crush its rivals and leave their bodies bleeding on the court! What do you say to that?”
A depressed cheer rose and faded in seconds. Then a deadpan voice broke the silence. “Can we eat them, too, or is this just for sport?”
“I’m not going to clean and cook the catch this time,” added a gravelly voice.
“Morgendorffer and Lane!” Ms. Morris shouted, red-faced. “Front and center!”
With a double sigh, the two troublemakers made their way to the front of the formation. Ms. Morris glared at them, then turned to the rest of the class. “The other Morgendorffer, too! And Griffin, Blum-Deckler, and whoever’s the other one who hangs around in that pretty-girl club you’ve got going! Front and center!”
Four more girls left the formation: Daria’s sister Quinn, her best friend Sandi Griffin, the vacant-looking Tiffany Blum-Deckler, and a pigtailed brunette who nervously called out, “Stacy Rowe! My name’s Stacy Rowe!”
“I don’t care what your name is!” Ms. Morris shouted, drowning out Stacy’s gasp. “The six of you cause me more headaches than anyone else here, even Andrea! Divide yourselves into two teams and go set up your net on that side of the gym! Move, move, MOVE!”
The Fashion Club and the Sarcastic Duo eyed each other in disgust as they headed for the far side of the gym. “Eww, run laps,” grumbled Tiffany. “Perspiration is so . . . unnatural.”
“Things could be worse, you know,” said Jane in a loud, matter-of-fact tone. “We could be living in a totalitarian prison run by a crazed dictator fond of grotesque torture.”
“Did you girls hear me?” screamed Ms. Morris behind them. “You have one minute to get your net set up before I drag you outside and make you run laps until your underwear catches fire from your thighs rubbing together! Now MOVE!”
“Does she think we’re infected with cellulite or something?” Sandi said under her breath, walking faster. Her three Fashion Club companions immediately reached down and felt their upper thighs, trying not to be conspicuous.
The six of them set up the net for their court without incident, having done it countless times already. They then stood in two small groups, eyeing each other.
“If we must be made to suffer,” said Sandi Griffin with a sour look, “we should keep the pain level as low as possible. One of us must sacrifice herself by playing on a team with those two—” She glanced at Daria and Jane “—while the rest of us stay together and offer mutual support to the unfortunate one. Quinn, since you are distantly related to one of the two outcasts, I suggest you fall upon your sword like a good Fashion Club soldier and join them.”
“I have a better idea,” said Jane. “Since we’re all going to be miserable anyway, why not just stay in two uneven groups like we are? That way, you can be miserable on your side of the court, we can be miserable on ours, and we don’t have to breathe each other’s intestinal gas.”
“Thanks a lot,” said Daria. “You ruined my little surprise.”
“Mine will be worse,” Jane said. “I ate two bowls of chili out of the refrigerator last night.”
“I ate my dad’s onion barbecue,” Daria returned. “With beans.”
“Eww!” squealed Stacy and Tiffany.
“Sandi,” said Quinn in a pleading tone, “can’t we draw straws or pick numbers or something?”
“Damn it! Why aren’t you girls ready?” shouted Ms. Morris, striding over in her blue sweat suit. “Everyone else is already playing, and you twits are still arguing about what team you’re going to be on! What is it with you?”
“Democracy in action,” said Daria. “We were in the middle of electing delegates to our respective party conventions before we voted on our team choices, and then we need to pick a secretary and a sergeant-at-arms before we—”
“You, Morgendorffer!” shouted Ms. Morris. “You’re a team captain! Lane, you’re a captain, too! Pick your teams and get going, or I swear you’ll do pushups until you move the Earth out of orbit!”
“Ms. Morris!” cried Stacy, waving a hand. “Ms. Morris, with all due respect to everyone present, please don’t let Daria pick me! Tiffany and I had to play on her team last fall, and she never hits the ball! She just sticks her hand out after the ball goes by, and Tiffany and I even ran into each other once trying to cover for her and almost permanently disabled ourselves, and—”
“I pick Tiffany and Stacy,” Jane interrupted. “It’s my turn to torture them.”
“Leftovers again,” Daria said, eyeing her sister and Sandi.
“Ms. Morris!” cried Quinn, waving a hand. “Ms. Morris, my doctor says I can’t play on the same team as my sis—cousin! She has a . . . a thing! I’m not allowed to talk about it except with the school psychologist, and it could be really damaging to my self-esteem and my reputation, and it might even damage my popularity and even my natural cuteness, too!”
“It won’t damage your brain,” said Daria. “You’d have to have one, first.”
“Shut up and start playing!” roared Ms. Morris. She flipped the ball at Daria, then stalked away to watch another game in progress. Daria dutifully put her hand out to stop the ball—waiting until two seconds after it flew past her and bounced off the back wall. Stacy retrieved it.
The two teams took up their positions on each side of the net. Sandi took the volleyball from Stacy and bounced it a few times, then looked back at Quinn. “We should minimize our shortcomings,” she said. “Tell your cousin with the ‘thing’ to stand somewhere where she won’t spoil the view or the action.”
“Gladly,” said Daria, and left the court for the bleachers.
“DARIA, DAMN IT!” screamed Ms. Morris from across the gym. “GET BACK THERE IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE!”
Daria turned in her tracks and returned. “I’ll cover the back court,” she said, and stood at the rear like a store-window mannequin. Sandi and Quinn looked at each other and shrugged, then turned around and tried to forget she was there.
On the other side, Jane took a position in the center by the net, with Tiffany and Stacy behind her. “Get ready!” Stacy called to Tiffany, who nodded. Both crouched, ready to jump. Jane yawned. Standing behind the rear court line, Sandi held the ball out and gave it a gentle underhand hit, sending it on a low arc toward the net. Tiffany and Stacy cried “Oh! Oh!” and started forward.
In a flash, Jane was in the air, her right arm windmilling over her head. She hammered the ball with the butt of her fist, rocketing it back across the net to bang the floor between Quinn and Sandi. It then shot high over Daria’s head, coming short of the ceiling as it flew over the air conditioning ducts to fall into the bleachers behind her.
Daria watched the ball go over, her head tilted back and long brown hair dangling free. Two seconds after the ball hit the bleachers, she stuck a hand out to block it.
Jane went back to her relaxed, carefree pose, rubbing the edge of her hand against her leg. Tiffany looked at her with huge eyes. “Whoa!” she said. “What was that?”
“Wow!” shrieked Stacy, pumping her fist in the air. “Yesss! Ohmigod, did you see her spike that—” She noticed Sandi and Quinn glaring at her “—I meant, for an unfashionable outcast, it wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“Beginner’s luck,” Sandi grumbled. “That won’t happen again.”
Another girl threw the ball back, and Quinn caught it and rolled it under the net to the other side. Jane picked it up and gently tossed it to Tiffany, who had been inspecting her nails and saw it coming only at the last moment. With a shriek, she flailed at the ball and knocked it back to Jane with her left kneecap by pure accident. “My nails!” Tiffany cried. “You almost broke my nails!”
“It’s your serve,” said Jane evenly, bouncing the ball over this time. Tiffany caught it with a glare, then walked behind the end line. She started to serve, then stopped and changed hands. A second serve was also aborted, as was the third.
“I can’t do this,” Tiffany said despondently. “It might damage my nails.”
“I’ll do it,” Stacy said quickly. “Pass it here and trade places with me.”
“You can’t do that,” Daria called. “Tiffany has to serve.”
“Tiffany doesn’t have to serve if she’ll disfigure herself!” Sandi shouted back. “Just stand there and don’t do anything nerd-like!”
“Daria’s right,” said Jane. “Your serve, Tiffany.”
“Jane and I are the team captains,” Daria added. “You have to do what we say.”
“Let’s vote on it!” Quinn said suddenly. “All in favor of Stacy serving, raise your hands! I knew it, four votes to two. Get the ball, Stacy.”
“That’s not in the rules,” said Daria.
“You’re the one who said we were doing this democratically!” Quinn shot back.
Daria rolled her eyes but subsided.
Stacy got the ball and gave a passable underhand serve over the net. Sandi took two quick steps to the left and hit it back with both hands over her head.
In a lightning whirl of arms and legs, Jane was at the net again. She pounded the ball down in another spike, bouncing it almost straight up into the air. Both Quinn and Sandi gasped and jogged backward to get out of the ball’s way. Unfortunately, Sandi backed into the gym wall and whacked the back of her head. Quinn crossed into the adjacent volleyball court and collided with two other girls, sending all three to the floor in a heap of arms and legs. The ball came down to smack the gym floor again and again, bouncing lower and lower until it rolled to a dead stop right in front of Daria. A moment later, Daria stuck a hand out to one side to block it.
A shouting match ensued between Quinn and the girls she had hit, beginning with “Watch where you’re going!” and “You watch where I’m going!” repeated four or five times at high volume. It concluded with softly muttered phrases like “Bitch!” and “Thinks she’s all that!” as everyone went back to their own courts.
“That’s two to zero,” said Jane, as the dust settled.
“No,” said Daria. “That’s zero to two.”
“Two to zero,” said Jane, imitating Daria’s deadpan.
“Zero to two.”
“Two to zero.”
“Shut the hell up!” Sandi yelled, still holding the back of her head with her eyes squeezed shut. “I’ve got a concussion, thanks to you morons!”
“Ohmigod!” cried Stacy, rushing over. “Ohmigod! We have to call an ambulance in case you have a brain injury!”
“Too late,” said Daria and Jane in chorus.
“Your hair is mussed, too,” said Tiffany. “I’ll get my mirror and brush.” She left, only to be sent back under protest by an angry Ms. Morris.
Quinn, Tiffany, and Stacy comforted Sandi as best they could until their friend’s eyes and nose stopped running. “I’m telling my mom about this,” Sandi said grimly. “She’ll have this stupid game outlawed.”
“Then only outlaws will have volleyballs,” said Daria.
“They’ll have to pry mine from my cold, dead fingers,” Jane returned.
“Will you two stop being so freaking melodramatic and start the game again?” Quinn shouted in fury.
“Yeah!” said Stacy. “We’re ahead by two! Let’s—” She again intercepted dark looks from Quinn and Sandi “—let’s let the other side have a chance to win!” She immediately rolled the ball to Sandi.
“Wait,” said Jane, watching the ball go by. “It’s still your serve, Stacy.”
“No, no!” Stacy cried. “It’s Sandi’s serve! We’re taking turns!”
“Our side lost the point,” said Daria. “And even if we got the ball, we’d rotate because it’s Quinn’s turn to serve.”
“Gawd!” yelled Quinn. “Don’t you brains ever quit? We’re taking turns, like Stacy said! And Sandi’s president of the Fashion Club, so of course she’s still serving!”
“But we’re the team captains,” said Jane.
“I say let’s vote on it,” said Sandi, gingerly touching the back of her head.
“Forget it,” said Daria to Jane. “The election’s been rigged.”
“This game has a lot in common with the one Alice played with the Queen,” said Jane, as Sandi prepared to serve. “The game with the flamingos and hedgehogs, I mean.”
“What?” said Sandi, lowering the ball and staring across the court. “What kind of paint fumes are you art geeks inhaling now? The royal game of England is cricket, as everyone knows, not playing volleyball using animals!”
“No,” said Jane, shaking her head, “I wasn’t talking about . . . oh, never mind.”
“Animal cruelty is so awful!” Stacy piped up. “To think anyone would use those pigs as volleyballs is—oh!” She moved forward, hands raised, as Sandi thumped the ball high over the net in her direction.
“Mine!” roared Jane, backpedaling at high speed. Panicked, Stacy and Tiffany instantly threw themselves out of Jane’s way as she barreled between them. Jane then hit the ball with both fits in a straight-line power shot that barely cleared the top of the net on its way to Quinn. Quinn saw the missile coming and squealed in terror. She shut her eyes, crossed her arms over her face, and backed up. The ball whizzed by her head, missing her by a yard. Her feet became entangled, and she fell back solidly on her butt, knocking her wind out. When it was over, Daria stuck a hand out to her side.
Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy ran over to help Quinn, who could make only asthmatic wheezing noises. “You could have killed her!” screamed Sandi.
“Yeah,” said Daria in a flat voice. “Why didn’t you?”
“What in the hell are you girls doing now?” shouted Ms. Morris, walking over with her fists on her hips. “Stop screwing around and play some damn volleyball!”
The Fashion Club chorused that Jane had tired to hit Quinn with the ball and could have broken her arms, her spine, and possibly her perfect nose, until Ms. Morris put the silver whistle in her mouth and blew it until her face turned bright red. “This is your last chance!” she yelled in the silence afterward. “Play ball or run laps until you cough up a lung!” She stamped away, swearing under her breath.
“Maybe Jane could stand over on the side and keep score or something,” said Stacy, eyeing her with visible fear.
“Ms. Morris says I have to play, so I’m playing,” said Jane mournfully. “I have no choice. I’m just a lonely puppet on a painted stage.”
“Can you do some other kind of puppet thing besides kill people at volleyball?” snapped Quinn, rubbing a forearm. “In addition to mangling my rear, I bruised myself when I bumped my arms together! I’m going to have to wear long sleeves for two weeks because of this! Oh, no! Look! It’s turning purple and green!”
“Eww, gross,” said Tiffany, making a face. “Can you turn the other way?”
“We’ll make a special trip to Cashman’s tonight after school to find the proper prosthetic outerwear to conceal this unsightly injury,” Sandi announced. “Meet at my house at six sharp. Meanwhile, Quinn, can you tell your cousin-whatever to tell her behaviorally disordered acquaintance to stop playing Terminator Ball?”
“Terminator Ball,” said Jane thoughtfully. “Terminator Ball. Hmm. I like it.”
“I’ll run the first-aid concession,” said Daria.
“Would someone hit the ball, please?” said Quinn. “Ms. Morris is looking at us again!”
Sandi picked up the ball but looked down at her right hand. “This is reddening my fair skin more than I think is tolerable. Quinn, you hit it.” She bounced the ball to Quinn.
“Rotate,” said Daria, heading for Quinn’s spot.
“No, stay in the back court,” said Quinn, catching the ball. “You’re out of the way there.” She made ready to serve.
“You’re not even behind the end line,” said Jane. “You can’t serve from mid-court.”
“Let’s vote,” said Sandi.
Daria and Jane groaned in unison. Daria remained motionless in the back. Jane, however, began to pace, carefully watching Quinn on the other side of the net.
“Can you look somewhere else?” Quinn asked anxiously.
“You’re the one with the ball,” said Jane.
“Jane?” called Stacy in a high, nervous tone. “Jane, why don’t you take the back court, and Tiffany and I will cover the front, okay?”
Jane thought, then nodded. “Hokie-dokie.” Everyone changed sides so that Jane covered the center rear, and her teammates were by the net. “That good for everyone?” Jane called.
“I’m happy,” said Daria in a deadpan tone.
“Great,” said Quinn. She held out the ball and started to hit it underhanded, then stopped. “I just remembered, if my wrist swells up, I won’t be able to get my watch back on after class. Can I just throw it over the net?”
“Knock yourself out,” said Daria. “I meant that literally, by the way.”
“Geek,” muttered Quinn, and she swung the ball up for a two-handed overhead throw.
Jane growled. Everyone turned to look at her. She was crouched down as if ready to run track, her eyes burning into the ball in Quinn’s hands. Tiffany and Stacy kept their heads turned and their eyes on Jane, instead of on Quinn, until Sandi snapped, “Hey! The ball! Look at the ball!”
“I’m throwing it now!” said Quinn nervously. “I’m throwing it to Tiffany!”
“Wanna bet?” said Jane, still crouched.
“Nooo!” Tiffany cried in panic, looking back at Jane again. “Throw it to Stacy, not me!”
“Don’t throw it to me!” Stacy cried.
“Throw it, Quinn,” said Daria, looking to one side. “Ms. Morris is coming.”
“Damn it!” Quinn yelled, and she threw the ball.
“MINE!” Jane shouted, bolting forward. Tiffany, Stacy, Sandi, and Quinn screamed and ran from the court in an instant, crashing through the gym doors leading out to the parking lot. Jane leaped up at the ball—and grabbed it, landing on her feet on her own side of the net. She bounced the ball as she looked at the slowly closing gym doors, the shrieks of the Fashion Club still audible outside, then rolled the ball across the floor so that it went past Daria’s feet.
Daria stuck out her hand two seconds later.
Ms. Morris ran across the court and hit the doors going out. “THAT DOES IT!” she hollered as she chased the retreating Fashionable Foursome. “IT’S LAP TIME FOR YOU! HIT THE TRACK AND GET READY FOR REAL PAIN!”
“Our work here is done,” said Jane.
Daria dropped her hand. “Let’s go back behind the wrestling mats,” she said, and the two set off across the gym together. “We haven’t finished deconstructing last night’s ‘Sick, Sad World’ episode.”
“It did explain why you never again see anyone who loses on a game show.”
“And why the winners always look so well fed.” Daria imagined that Ms. Morris would have caught the Fashion Club by now, and they would all be heading for the track. She smiled. “I guess ‘Jeopardy’ was a good name for that show after all.”
Original: 07/29/04, modified 11/21/04